Silver pine is a smallish, coniferous forest tree growing to heights of 50–60 ft and with diameters of 1 to 2 or, rarely, 3 ft. It is confined to some wet and boggy lowland and montane forest for nearly the whole length of the North and South Islands. The tree has occurred locally in small, pure stands in boggy areas but is usually scattered amongst other forest trees. It is commonest in the forests growing on the boggy terraces of the West Coast. In these it has been extensively worked, and silver pine buried in the bogs – where it must have lain for many hundreds, if not thousands, of years – is extracted and sold when markets are good. It regenerates readily and grows from suckers, but is extremely slow in growth.
The wood, which is light coloured, silky, and easily worked, has a remarkable durability, but it has seldom been regularly marketed because of the small quantities available. Nevertheless it has been keenly sought after locally, for house blocks, railway sleepers, poles, and fencing posts. Because of its value for these purposes it has mostly been cut out of available forest and large trees are to be found only in reserves. The bole of the tree is short and is crowned with many branches. The leaves are of two shapes: those on juvenile plants are half an inch long, narrow and linear, while those of adult plants are very small and appressed so closely to the stem as to form a cord-like appearance. As with other species of Dacrydium, silver pine is dioecious – that is, the small male flowers form catkins on one tree and the catkins of tiny female flowers are on another.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.